What is a Denture?
A denture is a removable replacement for missing teeth and surrounding soft tissues. It is made of acrylic resin, sometimes in combination with various metals. Complete dentures replace all the teeth, while a partial denture fills in the spaces created by missing teeth and prevents other teeth from changing position.
Complete dentures are either “conventional” or “immediate.” A conventional denture is placed in the mouth about 2 months after all the teeth are removed to allow for proper healing, whereas an immediate denture is placed as soon as the teeth are removed. Although an immediate denture eliminates the potentially embarassing period when you are without teeth, the main disadvantage is that it may require more adjustments(such as relines) after the healing has taken place.
Need for a denture
Candidates for complete dentures have lost all of their teeth. A partial denture is suitable for those who have some natural teeth remaining. A denture improves chewing ability, thus directly affecting the nutritional status of an individual, provides support for facial muscles, resulting in a more youthful look, and speech. It enhances the whole appearance of a person. Patients with well-fitting dentures also feel more confident and comfortable in a social setting than they would be without any teeth. Dentures play a very important role psychologically in making a person feel good about themselves.
Getting a denture
A dentist can make a full conventional denture when all teeth have been lost or all extraction sites have healed (up to eight weeks or longer.) The denture process takes about one month and five appointments: the initial diagnosis is made; an impression and a wax bite are made to determine the “height” of the denture and proper jaw position in relation to each other; a “try-in” is done to ensure that the patient is satisfied with the color, shape and size of the teeth; and finally the finished denture is inserted, followed by any minor adjustments that may be needed.
An immediate denture usually involves fewer steps and a try-in may not be possible because of the presence of existing teeth in the mouth. This type of denture is inserted at the same appointment that the teeth are extracted, so that the patient is not without teeth at any point in time.
New denture wearers need time to get accustomed because even the best fitting dentures will feel awkward at first. While most patients can begin to speak normally within a few hours, some patients report discomfort with eating for several days to a few weeks. To get accustomed to chewing with a new denture, start with soft foods. In addition, denture wearers often notice a slight change in facial appearance, increased salivary flow that is usually temporary, or minor speech difficulty.
Care for your denture
A denture is fragile, so it is important to handle it with care. Remove and brush the denture daily, preferably with a brush designed specifically for cleaning dentures, using either a denture cleanser or toothpastes. Never use harsh, abrasive cleansers, including abrasive toothpastes, because they may scratch the surface of the denture. The denture should always be stored in water at room temperature or a cleansing solution recommended for the purpose when not in use, never use hot water as it may distort the denture. If you wear a partial denture be sure to remove it before brushing your natural teeth. Get in the habit of keeping the denture in a safe place to reduce the likelihood of losing it.
Dentures should be removed at night. Research has shown that removing the denture for at least eight hours during the night allows the gum tissue to rest and allows normal stimulation and cleansing by the tongue and saliva. This promotes better long-term health of the gums.
Alternatives to dentures
Dentures are no longer the only option to restore a mouth that has few or no teeth. Strategically placed implants can now be used to support permanently cemented bridges, eliminating the need for a denture. Implants can also be used to hold a denture in a more stable position. The cost with implants tends to be greater, but the implants and bridges more closely resemble the “feel” of your own natural teeth.